The National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) and civil society members expressed concern over the reduced number of women's seats in local government bills enacted in Punjab and Sindh in a meeting held on Tuesday.
The participants who considered the development a major setback to efforts to increase women's representation, demanded all political parties represented in the provincial assemblies not to roll back the 33 per cent quota for women at all tiers of local government introduced during ex-president Gen. (retd) Musharraf's regime.
NCSW Chairperson Khawar Mumtaz said Sindh province's law provides for 22 per cent indirectly elected seats for women and the Punjab law sets numbers which may translate in some districts to less than 10 per cent of total members. Reducing women's seats to one out of nine in the directly elected first tier of local government in Sindh and two out of 13 in Punjab is a drastic reduction from a robust 33 per cent in previous local governments,” she said.
The participants welcomed the proposed 33 per cent of women's seats in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan draft bills and reiterated that provinces should adhere to articles 32 and 140-A of the Constitution.
While stressing their support for party-based elections at all levels and the principle of authority of elected councillors in decision making, rights activists recommended retaining the provision of 33 per cent reserved seats for women at all levels, five per cent quota for women on reserved seats for farmers, workers and non-Muslims and the eligibility of women to contest elections directly.
They asked that the quota to ensure women's representation should also be applicable for local government elections in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Islamabad Capital Territory.
They also demanded that women elected on reserved seats be made eligible for positions of naib nazims and nazims.